Journalism's nostalgia dilemma: You cannot cling on to the past if you ever expect to have a future.

The Intercept is one of the last actual investigative journalism outlets still in existence. It is not perfect, but then again, that is not a criticism and no one should be competing with God, anyway.

It is an outlet that has value, but there is an article that is instructive, but not for the best reasons, and the headline itself is concerning:


Fanboy drooling is a red flag that the rose-coloured glasses are wrecking the ability to see reality. It is a book review, and normally, a positive review for a book is perfectly acceptable.

But the argument and context of the review is very wrong.

Before I go into why the article is troubling, let me explain the problem of pining for your glory days in a professional context.


For journalism, the crux of their problem is that it is a profession that had a glorious past...only because they had a stranglehold on disseminating information to a mass audience. The rig favoured them; so they could essentially do or say whatever they wanted. Detractors did not have the same luxury, and could be painted as villains with impunity, meaning they would be dismissed.

When your entire structure is built with a rig as your foundation, you better make sure it stays solidly in place, or else, everything collapses.

You also better know that your fortunes depend on that rig, and not on your methods, abilities, and knowledge.

Should the world change and the rig is removed, you lose everything in the bargain. If you are prepared, you ensure that you can use an alternative to the rig, and not rest your entire fortunes assuming that rig is there for infinity.

The Internet blew up the rig.

Journalism did not prepare for it.

And it all came crashing down.

So, what should you do afterwards?


Go back to the past and pine, using what happened before as a benchmark or gold standard?

Of course not. The past has a different set of circumstances. The present showed the weaknesses that the past did not take into account. If you want a future, you move away from the past, let alone not hold on to it.

Nostalgia blinds people the same way quack medicine blinds people: just because something feels good -- or even feels better than usual -- doesn't mean it is good.

Once upon a time, people drank Radithor and felt great...until the radiation poisoning kicked in and they died horrific deaths, literally falling apart from the very thing they used to improve themselves.

Journalists never comprehended this reality. The rig that gave them power was also the very thing that prevented them from improving and expanding their profession.

Which brings us back to The Intercept's review.

It is a review that pines for journalism's Radithor. It lavishes praise for Seymour Hersh, an investigative print journalist whose new book Reporter also pines for the same toxic brew that felled a profession -- and its subset of investigative journalism that Hersh hypothesizes was superior to the regular variety.

The problem is that we have journalists pine for the Patriarchal days of journalism where racism and sexism was rampant; where narrative structures distorted the perceptions of reality, and where people's lives were destroyed by investigative journalists who never thought their methods through, nor bothered to use empirical methods to help destroy their own faulty assumptions.

It doesn't mean there wasn't any good journalism. Back then, given all of the confines at the time, it was good. The problem is that journalism is deficient in a modern world where every factor has changed.

Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it -- just as those who don't understand the subtext of history. It is not enough to know history -- you have to understand how it relates to both the present and the future.

And being nostalgic proves that those who don't know the present are doomed to use a faulty past to mess up the future.

Instead of merely praising the glory days, a better review would have questioned how much of that past would actual work in an evolved world.

You do not have to be disrespectful of those who worked hard in the past and paved the way for those living now, but you do have to understand that those in the past lived in a different world than the one you are living in now.

It is why following a romanticized script is a recipe for disaster.

And why an alternative to journalism has to break away from nostalgia in order to be the profession of the future...